Public Libraries’ Role in Workforce and Small Business Development Examined

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          Contact: Timothy Cherubini
October 4, 2022                                            Project Director, Measures that Matter

Public Libraries’ Role in Workforce and Small Business Development Examined

Pilot Project from Measures that Matter initiative looks across 10 public library systems

Lexington, KY and Washington, DC– The Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), in cooperation with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), announced today the release of new research examining the role U.S. public libraries play in supporting workforce and small business development. Conducted by Mt. Auburn Associates with Program and Policy Insight as part of the Measures that Matter initiative, the findings grow out of an extensive literature review, newly developed theory of change, and case studies of 10 public library systems. The research provides an increased understanding of current library practices and how they intersect with existing workforce systems. There is also identification of the challenges to data collection and outcome measurement, and potential topics for further exploration.

“The case studies uncover a diversity of approaches in how public libraries provide and manage workforce-related services,” said Stacey Aldrich, Hawaii State Librarian and COSLA Past President. “They suggest that libraries can contribute to workforce and business development system by complementing, rather than duplicating other local, state, and federal investments. Libraries’ broad community reach and inclusiveness contribute to efficiencies in how resources are being used.” 

Researchers also examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on libraries’ approaches to meeting workforce and business development needs of communities. “During and since the pandemic, libraries strengthened and leveraged relationships, including those with job seekers, entrepreneurs, and the business community,” noted IMLS Director Crosby Kemper.“They demonstrated once again through those relationships the strong connection libraries maintain to community needs, their ability to adapt, and the importance of digital literacy and access to technology.”

Intended as a pilot that could be replicated to study the impact public libraries have on other aspects of community wellbeing, the report articulates key themes and hypotheses for further testing. The full report is available at Webinars to discuss the research will be held in late October. For more information, email


About Measures that Matter. An initiative organized by the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Measures that Matter seeks to foster and coordinate conversations around U.S. public library data collection and use. For more information, visit and follow @libmeasuresmtr.

About COSLA. The Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), an independent organization of the principal library officials in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories, responsible for statewide library development. Its purpose is to provide leadership on issues of common concern and national interest; to further state library agency relationships with federal government and national organizations; and to initiate cooperative action for the improvement of library services to the people of the United States.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.